Warning, this one is a little bit cheesy…

There’s been a cheese bake-off in my house.

This weekend – in the midst of going silently mad and crazily housebound with a horrendous bout of the flu -I entertained myself by borrowing some marvellous vegan nut cheese recipes and trying my hand at something new. Something satisfying, yummy, indulgent and not endorsed by Michelle Bridges; vegan nut cheeses.

I keep seeing these rather marvellous firm looking cheese offerings on various vegan blogs and thinking, ‘why am I paying a fortune buying these….could I achieve this glorious looking little treat with my own bare hands?’ 

So – courtesy of two fabulous vegan cooks, I re-created their uber-delish recipes and was VERY excited by the results. These will not be one-offs. These bad boys will make it into my regular bake list.

First up – vegan feta.

I was suspicious.

Having bought a bloody dreadful and tasteless tofu vegan feta in a moment of madness online, I was uncertain as to whether to even bother to be honest. The first one left me so scarred by how revolting it was.

However, I miss feta and thought, what have I got to lose, except a few pantry items. Give it a go.

Here is the recipe I tried by the comforting vegan It promises an easy and tasty vegan feta and it doesn’t lie. It really was as easy as the recipe promises it will be.

This is pre freezing

This is pre freezing

The ingredients are ridiculously simple (already winning):

1 1/4 cup vegan yogurt (I used coconut)
4 Tablespoons coconut flour
2 teaspoons vinegar (white or apple) or lemon juice (I entirely ignored this and used half lemon juice and half pickle juice from a gherkin jar)
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoons herbs of your choosing  (I used Oregano – about double what the recipe suggested)
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

To follow the recipe steps visit their page here: http://thecomfortingvegan.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/vegan-feta-cheese.html

Post freezing and ready to go...

Post freezing and ready to go…

However – here it is in photo stages. ANYONE, and I mean anyone, could make this. It was ravishingly simple.

You basically blend it up, pop it into any old flat container, freeze it, chop it and then eat it!

The recipe clearly makes a better and more delectable description that I have – but it amounts to the same thing.

its really lovely.

The only thing that you have to get over is that its cold. Feta – straight from the fridge – is of course cold too. However, this is straight from the freezer.

Feta with my lovely greek style salad lunch

Feta with my lovely greek style salad lunch

So – when you want to eat it – I advise you get it out of the freezer and give it 5-10 minutes before you intend to eat it. Otherwise its rather like having cheesy ice cubes on your plate. Remember to let it thaw for a little bit, however, and I think you will love it. I was really happily surprised and am now more than a little bit chuffed that I have these little treasures sitting in my freezer for whenever I want them….

Next up – Almond Nut cheeses courtesy of Maple Spice. 

I have to confess, again, that I was not supremely confident upon starting out on this recipe. I’ve tried to make a set cheese before and, whilst yummy, it was certainly nothing I’d want to share with anyone, shout about or serve up to friends. I can imagine the faces that would have been pulled.

2015-09-10 09.13.49

The mix of agar, soy milk, olive oil and other flavourings simmering in the pan

That being said, I had high hopes as this recipe seemed – again – rather simple, easy to follow and – in the pictures anyway – tasty. I – rather ambitiously – decided to make two of the cheeses. I made the Rosemary Chilli one AND the Sundried Tomato basil one.

Both turned out to be delicious. Really delish. The Chilli one nearly knocked my socks off and gave me a shocking garlic breath which I am not sure my husband appreciated. However – it was rather marvellous on toast with grilled tomatoes. The tomato one was equally lovely but I might like to ‘turn up the flavour’ and add more basil and more tomato than the recipe suggests as I found the tomato flavour lovely but not quick with as much tomato-y kick as I’d hoped for.

Anyway – follow the recipes here: http://www.maplespice.com/2014/09/a-trio-of-almond-cheese-chive-sun-dried.html

2015-09-10 11.56.46Chilli and Rosemary Cheese:

• 40g ground almonds (5 Tbsp + 2 tsp)
• 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes, ground to a powder
• ½ tsp garlic powder
• ¼ tsp salt
• 100ml unsweetened almond or soy milk (3.5 fl oz)
• 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• ½ tsp dried rosemary
• ¼ tsp dried chili flakes (also known as red pepper flakes)
• about 6 grinds of black pepper
• 1 Tbsp agar flakes

2015-09-10 13.50.31Sun dried Tomato and Basil Cheese:

• 40g ground almonds (5 Tbsp + 2 tsp)
• 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes, ground to a powder
• ½ tsp garlic powder
• ¼ tsp salt
• 100ml unsweetened almond or soy milk (3.5 fl oz)
• 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• ½ Tbsp tomato paste
• 1 Tbsp agar flakes
• 2 Tbsp finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes (the type packed in oil)
• 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
2015-09-10 09.29.23

In the pot ready to set – make sure you cover the whole thing with cling film / glad wrap (or whatever you call it) and pop straight in the fridge

Tips for them both I worked out as I went along:

– I put 1.5 tablespoons of agar in each time to make sure they were super firm and it worked
– I used the ramekins she suggests to set them and I was really generous with the olive oil on the inside so they didn’t stick
– about an hour in I ran a sharp knife around the edge to get the cheese off the edge of the ramekin – this seemed to helped them to come out of the pot whole
– they are divine on pita bread or on toast with grilled tomatoes!
– Each time I blended the nutritional yeast with the almonds. I didn’t use shop bought almond meal and instead ground my own almonds along with the nutritional yeast and salt upfront – saved time and it worked just fine
And voila….
…these cheeses were super easy to make, super tasty to eat and really great cheese making introduction recipes. There was nothing specifically tough to do and nothing that phased me. I would completely recommend giving it a go yourself. I feel quite inspired by the experience and it certainly took my mind off the flu and aches and pains for short while and then entertained my taste buds afterwards for a longer while….
Here’s to the wonder of the almond. So versatile. So tasty.  Before I was vegan, I literally had no idea of the versatility of these little beasts. Now, I am nothing but thankful for what they can do with the right imagination and a little bit of elbow grease.
Until next time.
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